For Syl

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Dear Friend,

How across the universe you found me in my darkness,

a child in the corner of the room.

Through the years you visit me and reach out a hand

to touch, and linger on my words.

However disorganized my thoughts became

or truly navel-gazing, you came.

“To lighten up, even the darkest day.”

Thank you for your kindness.

Thank you for following me.

Most of all, thank you for not forgetting me.

Love, Gail

Poem – On Hold to Paris


What is my natural state?
Wait a minute, wait five, wait ten.
The aperture opens, I blink.
In a flash, I switch direction.
I cry at the joy of music.
I smile at the finality of death.
In between, the body
of my mind flinches
at the exposure.

Just let me walk out the door this time.
I’ll take with me all which they carried.
A photograph, a medal, a lipstick.
No medium to conjure the spirits
but the drawing I left on the desk.
I left it with you to remind you
the night flight to Paris is due.

Poem – Lady Neighbor

Lady Neighbor
Morning aerobics;
Hitler heels attached
to a binge-eating timpany
break waves in my plastered ceiling
to the music of cottage cheese dancing.

Usually, I sleep through it.
This morning the Marilyn pumps
strike oil in in my pavement
of dozing consciousness;
my dripping delusions of sleep.

We’re in love, she and I.
She with my late night hauntings
below her headboard
and me with her early morning
happy-heeled surprise.

After aerobics:
a grist mill attacks me
and shucks the hull right off my brain.
It has to be that Siamese.
Vacuum cleaners don’t delight
in drilling for gray matter that way.

Midnight and I’m alive.
Jazzing at my keyboard
with Dizzy Gillespie and friends.
My ancient anointed blender
cracks her ice
for my Daiquiris.
I’m typing love notes
to my favorite neighbor.

Poem – Drunk as Drunk on Neruda


Did you taste that thirsty pause
between our grasping laughter?
We peeled away the years
of disembodied closeness
we’d built like dunes covered
by disinterested waves
that made their sterling debut
late in that clean afternoon.

That open pause like
the mouths of lovers eating a kiss-
I traced the movement of your lips
as you taught me Cockney slang.
I could only spit out Harvard yard.
I drank the Caribbean high noon,
and you sipped on beans from Brazil.
Love tried to intervene
to expose our mindless mime.

Finally, it was poetry that united us.
We worked together on a poem
we both wished we had written
that spoke the unspeakable
of what was or could be between us,
that forced us into the third person
and stole deafness from my wishes.
We made love to the printed page,
and said goodbye without a touch.

Poem – Song for Unattainable Men

Song for Unattainable Men
I’ve been waiting, have you dreamt of me?
since I penetrated your left eardrum
with my flute solo, the one I played for you
on that slick cardboard and scotch-taped instrument.
I was a virtuoso then, at ten,
and I’m still waiting.

Have you dreamt my melody?
I see the opening in your ear sucking
on the flirtatious patter of overgrown girls
with your eye for propriety
and lust for that candy, that syrup,
those vapors, while I play.

My flute is sterling now; I play it solo.
Open-holed like your ear and I thought
the two of you would get along.
Snakes do their bidding, as I seduce them
for their venom, but my song dies
in empty chambers when you hear.

Maybe, though, I could be wrong.
Maybe my music fills your dreams
with liquid crescendos, my silver grip,
and you with your sense of propriety
and place can tolerate clatter and chat
but awaken shaken with my solo in your song.

Do you turn to the medicine cabinet
in navy hours of the night
looking for liniment and swabs
to comfort tears that your ear cries?
Tears that weep from the hole
I put in your dreams one night.

Poem — The Prayer

I saw a thing of beauty today;

six Canadian geese preening each other in the sunlight

at the edge of a toppling waterfall.

I wondered, knowing the drop-off was near,

how did they love each other so completely?

How did they absorb the splendor in the day at the very edge of annihilation?

 

But of course, they can fly. It was only an afterthought.

I’ve flown before at the edge of the abyss, two nights ago, in fact.

 

I suffered for the violent current pulling me toward the sprinklers of heaven.

Or, what might be mistaken for heaven,

as I only borrow what others believe and when I pray,

it’s not as if I know what I’m doing.

Poem – Anaphoric Ride

The train grinds to life, eating virgin track.
Passengers shift and move around like silverfish.
The tired man has a window seat.
Picking up speed, the train passes through…

A place that looks like the Grand Canyon
but is really the black hole of his longings.
Being a thin man, he longs for many things.

A place where only Portuguese is spoken
and he finds the only word he understands is “gringo.”
He knows that means him.

A place where bulimic cats toss dishes into the sink
and spray graffiti over the refrigerator, implicating
their owners in hideous crimes.

A place where Siamese twins marry brothers
and each have eleven children, no twins.
He knows this could only happen in Siam.

A place where he is born into a vortex of vowels
that envelop him in their amniotic way,
as they hunger for something solid.

A place where he finds he is the starlet in a snuff film
and it is fitting somehow. He wants to finish this page anyway,
discontinue this B-rated romance.

A place where the aging cashier has a four inch thumbnail,
painted pink, with her black hair tied up in a bow and he asks himself,
“And I thought money was dirty?”

A place where he wonders in the train what everyone else thinks about ‘eye contact,’ because he is making eye contact. Then he realizes that you aren’t supposed to make eye contact, and now the rest of the train ride is just hard work staring at someone’s shoes, shifting to a purse, to a newspaper, to wishing this ride was over, to a book, to a uniform, to a reflection in the window…

To a place where the train never stops.